The International Criminal Court in The Hague has referred the southern African nation of Malawi to the UN Security Council for refusing to arrest Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.
Malawi and Chad hosted Bashir in October for trade summits. This was despite the fact there is an outstanding ICC arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
Malawi, the court said, argued that customary international law creates an exception for heads of state wanted for international crimes. "The judges noted that immunity for heads of state before international courts has been rejected time and time again dating all the way back to World War I," the court said.
Bashir's case is fast becoming a regional flash point. "Many African leaders accuse the ICC of only investigating alleged war crimes in Africa and ignoring those committed elsewhere," notes the BBC. Last week, the Ivory Coast's ex-president became the first former head of state to face judges at the ICC.
Last month, a Kenyan court criticised the government for failing to arrest Mr Bashir when he visited in August and issued its own warrant. Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said the government would appeal against the ruling and it would not arrest Mr Bashir if he visited again. "We have voiced concerns about the manner in which the ICC has been pursuing African leaders and leaving leaders with much, much heavier responsibility of human rights and murderous actions," he said, pointing to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So far, at least 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced in the civil war between the Khartoum government and Darfur provinces.
In related news: Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda has been officially elected as the ICC's new chief prosecutor . Bensouda becomes the first African to "hold the top post at a time when the ICC is almost exclusively focused on the continent," reports Al Jazeera.
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